JESUS: THE VULNERABLE NAME FOR GOD
In the Name of God. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
There are a number of adages and old sayings about making a first impression:
* You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
* First impressions are the most lasting.
People tend to be most concerned with making good first impressions when it comes to job interviews, first dates, performances and introductions. We all feel there is something hanging on the first impression.
Unfortunately, by the time people were collecting stories about God and telling them to their children, God had made a mixed first impression on the human race.
* We don’t have to get very far into Genesis, before God has ejected Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden.
* Soon we hear of God’s anger being provoked into flooding the world to rid it of human evil.
* Next, the people attempt to build a tower to heaven and God throws them into confusion by making them speak many languages.
* From there, God destroys the corrupt city of Sodom, and still, with half of Genesis yet to go,
* God goes as far as to ask Abraham to offer his son as a sacrifice.
You can see why it doesn’t take long for people to form the impression that God is one to be feared because God seemed ready to judge, angry, and demanding.
Therefore, maybe it was God who first coined the phrase: “It is never too late to make a positive impression.” Because by the way we were telling the story, it didn’t start so well if God wanted us to understand how much God loved creation and all of the people in it.
In what could be called the best image make-over of all time, God tried a new campaign. Instead of giving signs like rescuing people from their enemies, feeding them in the wilderness, and sending prophet after prophet to tell them, for the love of God, to change their ways, God would now step into creation and speak directly to the ones He loved.
God arrived on a star-lit night as a baby in a manger in Bethlehem. There we learned for the first time that Jesus is the vulnerable name of God.
Even though it has now been more than two thousand years since Jesus was born, the first impression is still having a hard time dying. It is very hard in any circumstance for us to see that we have been wrong. Of all things, have we really misunderstood God for so long? If so, would that mean we have been dead to the truth … and coming to understand it now is bringing us to life?
We heard it said in our reading (according to The Message) from The Acts of the Apostles, “Through Jesus Christ everything is being put together again—well, he’s doing it everywhere, among everyone” Acts 10:36.
God came into creation this way to show us His love by achieving our redemption from misunderstanding.
Jesus proved that God was humble, patient, forgiving, and willing to suffer to see that we got the right message – regardless of the cost – or else that was the message – that God loves us at any price. This truth is overwhelming and obvious on the cross. Jesus was utterly vulnerable at his death and human beings were the ones who tortured him, who watched it be done, and who did nothing to stop it. Jesus knew we had no idea what we were doing and sought our forgiveness.
In Jesus, we see God become completely vulnerable (which is the opposite of safe) to become fully known to us. God removed any shroud, covering or veil which could stand in the way of our ability to see his love expressed clearly.
It is dangerous work making yourself vulnerable. Most of us avoid it because we don’t want to be wounded. We devise all sorts of ways of protecting ourselves and giving our pride a fancy set of clothes to wear in the world.
The drawback, however, is that hiding our true selves keeps us from being known by others – sometimes even by ourselves. If we lose the ability to be ourselves, we lose the ability to live. If we aren’t able to be vulnerable with others, we will never be known, and we will never be loved. That is no way to live.
Once we meet the vulnerable God in Jesus, we begin to understand that real, vital life comes through the willingness to take risks and make ourselves vulnerable.
In the epistle to the Colossians, we hear this advice: “If you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it… see things from his perspective. Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life” Colossians 3:
In Acts we hear the apostle’s excited story of Jesus setting people straight about what God is really like. “Jesus arrived from Nazareth, anointed by God with the Holy Spirit, ready for action. He went through the country helping people and healing everyone who was beaten down by the Devil. He was able to do all this because God was with him. And we saw it, saw it all, everything!”
In the Gospel of Matthew we have a simple, wonderful example of the compassionate love of God in the way Jesus cares for the women outside the tomb. “The women, deep in wonder and full of joy, lost no time [and] ran to tell the disciples. Then Jesus met them, stopping them in their tracks. “Good morning!” he said. They fell to their knees, embraced his feet, and worshiped him. Jesus said, “You’re holding on to me for dear life! Don’t be frightened like that” Matthew 28:8-9.
Before the women had a chance to say anything, Jesus told them not to be afraid.
Only someone who has been afraid knows that it is important to say these words. Jesus had just come from going through the worst and coming out alive, telling others not to be afraid.
Through Jesus, when we come to understand how much God loves us, we can put the old way of not-really-living behind us. Once we know the love of God, we will have been raised from the dead.
If you haven’t given God a chance to make a new impression on you lately, then, this Easter, allow yourself to be introduced to Jesus again.
See, Jesus is the vulnerable face of God who came into the world to reveal God’s infinite love to us, to demonstrate that our every suffering is his, and to show us what a life of eternal vitality is.
As St. Iraneaus, a second century Christian, said, “The glory of God is the human being alive.”
Go out and glorify God by really being alive! Do it the way God has shown us in the vulnerable face of Jesus our Lord.